US of the Inguinal Canal: Comprehensive Review of Pathologic Processes with CT and MR Imaging Correlation

Radiographics. 2016 Nov-Dec;36(7):2028-2048. doi: 10.1148/rg.2016150181. Epub 2016 Oct 7.


Ultrasonography (US) has a fundamental role in the initial examination of patients who present with symptoms indicating abnormalities of the inguinal canal (IC), an area known for its complex anatomy. A thorough understanding of the embryologic and imaging characteristics of the contents of the IC is essential for any general radiologist. Moreover, an awareness of the various pathologic conditions that can affect IC structures is crucial to preventing misdiagnoses and ensuring optimal patient care. Early detection of IC abnormalities can reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality and facilitate proper treatment. Abnormalities may be related to increased intra-abdominal pressure, which can result in development of direct inguinal hernias and varicoceles, or to congenital anomalies of the processus vaginalis, which can result in development of indirect hernias and hydroceles. US is also helpful in assessing postoperative complications of hernia repair, such as hematoma, seroma, abscess, and hernia recurrence. In addition, it is often the modality initially used to detect neoplasms arising from or invading the IC. US is an important tool in the examination of patients suspected of having undescended testes or posttraumatic testicular retraction and is essential for the examination of patients suspected of having torsion or infectious inflammatory conditions of the spermatic cord. Online supplemental material is available for this article. ©RSNA, 2016.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Hernia, Inguinal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement / methods
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Inguinal Canal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Inguinal Canal / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Multimodal Imaging / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Testicular Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*